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submitted 11 months ago by 65gmexl3 to c/nostupidquestions

YouTube disallowing adblockers, Reddit charging for API usage, Twitter blocking non-registered users. These events happen almost at the same time. Is this one of the effects of the tech bubble burst?

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[-] [email protected] 592 points 11 months ago

I think it's a consequence of higher interest rates drying up VC money, meaning that tech companies now have to actually be profitable, rather than just grow.

If the plan was grow now, profit later, then later has come

[-] InverseParallax 139 points 11 months ago

Nailed it, investors are demanding profit increases, it's not just interest rates (though they're the main reason) but also the corporate tax cuts in 2018 basically dumped a ton of profit onto corporations because they repatriated all their offshore cash they'd been hoarding.

That bump lasted 2 years, but the expectation of higher revenue is still there, it doesn't matter if you got lucky at slots last month, if you make your normal salary this month investors will be absolutely pissed.

[-] [email protected] 37 points 11 months ago

This sounds too stupid to be real but I was working for one of the largest corporations in the world during this period and we were congratulated on 20% growth even though we did nothing. Of course we didn’t get an extra bonus or anything but they acted like we had an incredible year when we really just had an average year with a massive tax cut.

Then the next year, our goal was to grow at 20% again and when we missed it by 17%, no one got a bonus or raise.

This timeline is the stupid one.

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[-] AgentOrange 115 points 11 months ago

This is also a great example of why higher interest rates aren't automatically a terrible thing. In general, it's probably a good sign for the economy that companies are expected to be profitable. Means resources are being used well. The limitless VC money kinda meant any dumb idea regardless of merit got funding.

[-] MsPenguinette 117 points 11 months ago

I wish we lived in a society where not everything needed to be profitable. People deserve treats and sucks to have things that made our lives better go awake because shareholders demand money

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[-] [email protected] 50 points 11 months ago

No. I don't mean to be rude but most of that message is wrong.

VC Money is very much not drying up. 2023 has seen record rounds in most markets. What is drying up is "VC Money for early stage startups with no revenue, no traction, and barely a functional idea", but even that is not new it has been going on since at least 2018. Remember that guy who raised 1.5M$ with an app that just let you say "Yo" to your contacts ? That was 10 years ago. Those times are dead and buried.

Then the link between VC markets health and interest rates is... contentious to say the least. VCs don't borrow money - they raise funds from family offices and individual investors, every 2 or 3 years. So every change to the financial landscape will have a progressive effect over 3 years, not a brutal one after a few months. Also you have to bear in mind that the people who bankroll VCs are looking for performance of at least 2X over 10 years. Interests would have to go up to 7% to even be in competition with VC investment. Of course there's a psychological aspect to investment so the effet is not ZERO but it's not as automatic as saying "interest go up => vc dry up".

Finally, the companies we are talking about are in vastly different situations and not necessarily looking for VC money. There is no explaining their behaviour with a single cause, what we're seeing is probably a cluster effect, because executives are like fish they always follow the movement of the other fish in their field.

  • Youtube has been profitable for years and is part of Google which is massively profitable. VC Money has no bearing on their decisions - they are in a quasi-monopoly with no credible competition and want to squeeze their users out of greed
  • Reddit has a long and complicated cap table including some very powerful institutional investors so they are aiming at an IPO rather than more VC money. They're in a pretty good place actually with 1.5 billion MAU, and in the process of shaking off the 10% of hardcore users who are super hostile to monetization. Their monetization is so low (<2$/month/user, when the competition is 10 to 20 times higher) that they could bear to lose 50% of their userbase and still make bank with the remaining ones. They don't need VC money right now.
  • Twitter is... uh... well there's no telling what Elon is up to but he is absolutely not raising any VC money especially after the shit he's pulled off since the buy-off. I think it's just a bunch of bad moves because he's inept at the social media game.
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[-] sknob 276 points 11 months ago

Short answer : Enshittification.

Long and brilliant explanation here : https://www.wired.com/story/tiktok-platforms-cory-doctorow/

[-] TheGreenGhost 94 points 11 months ago

This concept is also why I’m so hopeful for federated software. The federated model means that there’s no single instance that holds all the power. Many of these instances are run by admins of their own kindness and initiative. And at worst, if any instance were to start being “enshittified,” people could easily move to another instance and continue participating in the greater network.

Between all of what we’ve seen unfold in the last few months, and even weeks, on Twitter and Reddit, it’s safe to say that “enshittification” could be reaching critical mass. That’s why I came here, after all, and I’m looking forward to seeing this community simply persist here on the web.

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[-] ccunix 62 points 11 months ago

Original on Cory Doctorow's own site here

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[-] NewEnglandRedshirt 38 points 11 months ago

Jesus. It's articles like this that make me both be thankful for Doctorow and his ability to put tech shit in terms is non-techies can understand.

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[-] [email protected] 145 points 11 months ago

Venture capital has shifted very quickly from companies HOSTING content to companies SCRAPING content (LLM’s). This means renting compute is now very expensive and moving into the hands of ‘AI’ companies. It’s like trying to fly a plane while monkeys are tearing the wings of.

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[-] XanXic 135 points 11 months ago

I'd say because it's in the air. Obviously companies watch each other. Like the layoffs in January. The initial wave was the companies that needed to do it and had been planning it for awhile. Then when there was blood in the water everyone was doing it because then they aren't big mean company, they are just another company doing layoffs right now. Lost in the crowd. It's already come out some companies did it purely because big companies like Twitter and Google did it.

But we are seeing a big increase in anti-consumer moves because there seems to be no backlash. Like there's the vocal minority, but it seems by and large a huge amount of the customers for these tech companies are unwilling to move away.

Every time Twitter does something some move off Twitter, and they get such growth! But then eventually stuff like Mastadon's activity has a noticeable decline over time and Twitter carries on. Some people go back, some quit Twitter entirely. But these are fractions of a percentage probably. They still have the biggest celebrities and a crap ton of users.

Netflix just cracked down on password sharing, in a move that people were calling foolish. The outcry was everywhere and anytime Netflix was mentioned was 20 comments saying they cancelled that day. But subscriptions are up, Netflix won.

YouTube has been pushing more and more ads on users, there isn't as big as a direct backlash. Like there was more outcry on removing the dislike button. Which...no one cares now lol. But YouTube pushing's more ads, and they don't seem to be loosing money for it. I'm sure they are trying to find the 'breaking point' for customers. But either people really are willing to put up with 2 30second unskippable ads every 5 minutes or premuim subscriptions are skyrocketing as they ruin the free experience.

WB killed a ton of shows outright, basically burned a bunch of media and shuttered a ton of HBO Max's staff. People upset... Twitter all a buzz. Now it's back to HBO is the best streaming service (Which it is lol)

Like it just keeps going. I think it's just a combination of companies making terrible blunders steal the spotlight from each other and society as a whole has a 3 day memory. The Reddit protests are already cold news because Twitter just DDOS'd itself. People who saw all this with Reddit and call it disgusting moves by the company and the unspoken bond is broken, always end their diatribe with something like "Well I'll just use old.Reddit with an ad blocker" like they are winning when they still provide Reddit with their usage.

People like us who walk away and move to spots like this are the minority of a minority. It's up in the air how many will stay and how many will slowly forget their outrage at Reddit and go back.

[-] veroxii 48 points 11 months ago

People! What a bunch of bastards!

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[-] thawed_caveman 124 points 11 months ago

As discussed here:

Honestly they do it so consistently that i’m starting to wonder if they have a choice.

A common way to do things for tech startups is that they get venture capital funds, use them to run the business at a loss hoping to acquire market dominance, and then use market dominance to turn a profit. I think a lot of tech startups that we know are currently in phase 2, meaning they’ve thrown money out the window for years and are now trying to recoup their investments.

Also, Reddit wants to go public and Twitter already is. This is relevant because investors are animals, all they see is short-term profit, and they use their voting power to make the company behave that way.

There’s a common thread between both my theories: it’s shareholder capitalism. I say this as a lifelong shareholder myself, shareholders ruin everything.

[-] [email protected] 49 points 11 months ago

If interest rates are high, I'm sure they're hard up for capital. The free money they've grown to depend on is drying up and they need to make money themselves asap.

[-] dustyData 39 points 11 months ago

Yup, tech bro culture is wasting someone's else money to play with computers. No money, no game time for baby. Silicon Valley is in a panic because the infinite spout of money suddenly stopped, and there's a line of pissed people asking for their money back. They promised the world, now it's time to deliver and turns out they have nothing of value.

[-] Aceticon 52 points 11 months ago

I was in the Tech game back in the late 1990s and in the Tech Startup game recently and this time around it's not techies that are Startup Founders, it's people from Sales, Marketing and Finance.

The whole "making something cool" ethos of Tech has been replaced by "Find a market niche that you can grow in until you have an exit strategy (IPO or sale to a larger company)" or in other words, make a company that looks like an infinite growth venture and sell it to some suckers for a ton of money.

As it so happens I was in Investment Banking in between those two periods in the Tech industry and immediatelly recognized the same spirit as in Investment Banking when I went into Startups in the late 2010.

At least the previous generation was driven by the "play with computers" drive. This one is all about borderline fraud (often outright fraud - just think Theranos or all the "coin" "tech startups") in the pursuit of personal upside maximization.

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[-] designated_fridge 114 points 10 months ago

Most of the aspects have already been covered but I would want to add one:

This was always the plan, it just wasn't as highly prioritised as growth.

I work as a developer at a big tech company. We (the company) had our roadmap and it was mostly about getting more users. The more users you have the day the economy turns - the better off you are (... If you manage to turn an profit).

So when the economy went to shit and we (and other tech companies) no longer can loan money for free to cover our running expenses - the priorities shift. Working towards attracting more users is only going to increase your costs at the point and you don't want to run out of money. So all roadmaps changed and cost saving efforts became the highest prio all of the sudden.

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[-] [email protected] 99 points 11 months ago

It's the end of cheap credit.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/fredgraph.png?g=16J5X

That graph shows the Federal Funds Effective Rate. Until recently, VCs could borrow money while effectively paying zero interest. That meant their investments weren't under any pressure to become profitable any time soon. Now, borrowing is expensive. VCs don't want to loan any more money, and want their investments to pay off. Reddit and other pre-IPO companies are scrambling to become profitable.

I assume the big companies like YouTube / Google going against people blocking ads are just taking advantage of the chaos.

As for Twitter: Elon Musk is an idiot.

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[-] hydra 98 points 11 months ago

Tech companies were only favorable to their users during the corporate Web 2.0 genesis when these companies had to lure educated users in with extremely convenient free services, but they always did and continue to do so under terms of service that are intentionally made as hard to read walls of legalese bullshit, so they always click accept and hand them power by moving there.

These companies usually are either publicly traded or aspire to be publicly traded, and are backed by venture capital loaned to them by banks and investors.

Then during the late 2000s and early 2010s these corporations gobbled up web traffic by having all the valuable information and communities behind their walls. This drove their operating costs up a lot but it was no problem, since the zero interest rate policy was in effect so these now-megacorps had basically interest-free loans to get infinite money to finance the platform. However they realized around the mid 2010s that they controlled the vast majority of the web so they realized they could be as greedy as they wanted since no one is going to ever step up to them (YouTube is a shining example of this) and ever since the mid-late 2010s they started nerfing and crippling the user experience in order to please their investors and ad networks. This process was extremely slow initially to minimize the backlash. They applied the boiling frog strategy and it worked.

By the early 2020s this was in full effect: websites do not respect your privacy and try to shove trackers and ads whenever and wherever they legally can, search engines are manipulated to put sponsored and SEO spam links first rather than useful answers, sites are implementing login walls to make sure the valuable content they hold hostage can only be accessed once they have the data of users, discourse is being controlled and micromanaged by corporations with automated censorship, mystery echo chamber algorithms, shadowbans and wordlists, news sites have article limits and paywalls now. It got so bad that it's already harming society as a whole because it's causing polarization and these platforms now have enough power to theoretically manipulate elections in some really bad cases.

This is a process known as enshittification: start great then become shit and die. Now that the zero interest rate policy is over, and interest rates started climbing up it means silicon valley free money is over so they can no longer afford to be boiling frogs, they are turning up the heat to 11 and just roasting the frog alive. In other words, the enshittification cycle is becoming exponentially faster and it's only going to get worse for the corporate web and its users. The only solution is returning to decentralized technologies like Web 1.0 used to be, but it's extremely hard since free as in you pay with your data services are addictive like crack cocaine.

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[-] BURN 95 points 11 months ago

Ads pay basically nothing now and VC funding has dried up. Most of these tech companies operated at a loss and are now being pressured into becoming profitable since investors don’t want to throw money at them anymore.

Data privacy laws have also gotten better, cutting off another revenue stream that was typically used.

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[-] balrog 90 points 11 months ago

Capitalism.

Capitalism is like cutting off your wings because you believe the reduced weight will make you fly higher.

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[-] RIotingPacifist 83 points 10 months ago

Part of it is the standard crisis of capitalism, the profit you get from doing the same thing always declines, so over time you have to push up revenue (increasing prices, forcing people to pay, showing more ads, gathering more data, etc) & push down costs (fire engineers, run on less hardware, etc)

Part of it is capitalisms natural tendency to create monopolies, and the lack of competition in a given field causing the company to then lose sight of what it's good at to compete in a bigger field.

Part is that interest rates mean loans are no longer cheap, so taking on debt to get customer, to at some point down the line make money, is a less viable plan. Twitter is a special case where the bad loans are because that was the original deal not interested rate related, and Musk is trying to pull all of the enshitification levers at the same time.

Part is that CEOs generally don't have a fucking clue about their products or what they are doing (it's a circuit job about who you know/blow, not what you know), so once one CEO starts firing/enshitifying, the rest just copy them so as to not be left out.

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[-] [email protected] 77 points 11 months ago

They need money for their greedy venture capitalists.

[-] DashboTreeFrog 74 points 11 months ago

It's so common there's even a term for it now, "enshittification"

To quote the article that describes it:

"Here is how platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die."

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/tiktok-platforms-cory-doctorow/ The source is about TikTok but the author has gone on to describe how this applies to basically every modern tech company in various interviews.

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[-] [email protected] 66 points 11 months ago

Greedy capitalists believe line must always go up. They will sacrifice every moral principle to their invisible hand god.

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[-] MargotRobbie 60 points 11 months ago

It's simple, despite what big tech companies are telling themselves, current algorithm for personalized online ads doesn't actually work, because you can't force people to be interested something just by shoving media in front of them.

Instead of realizing that people want genuine human engagement to tell them HOW your product can help solve their problems, we are at the phase where tech companies double down on their incorrect assumption and thinks to make people want things, they just need to shove more things people don't want to see in front of them.

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[-] lycanrising 58 points 10 months ago

free money has dried up, now they need to monetise your habits.

[-] [email protected] 57 points 10 months ago

They've reached such an economic power that now they just want to be as profitable as possible, crushing any kind of competition of popular pro-user participation while profiting over our data and content

WE, the users, made them able to do so, giving them economic and sometime even geopolitical power. But WE still determine whether they can exist or not man, we still have the power to bring them down. It's time to take back what's ours!

[-] thea 57 points 11 months ago

i hope that the internet becomes sort of how it used to be, made by the people for the people and ran by the people instead of made by a few huge corporations that sell our data and constantly try and squeeze profit out of their platforms. i love the sense of community in decentralised social media and there seems to be next to no arguments most places. im really enjoying everything so far after joining

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[-] [email protected] 55 points 10 months ago* (last edited 10 months ago)

Interest rates go up > VCs can't barrow free money and demand a return on investment > companies try to demonstrate profitability > enshitification

[-] bricks 55 points 11 months ago* (last edited 11 months ago)

Others have basically captured it, but my read is a massive change in the overall risk profile held by venture capital firms. The time of reckoning has come, and it’s time for everyone’s (or at least VCs’) favourite three letters: ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue).

The last twenty years, we’ve seen this sort of spray-and-pray model, where 99 bad investments could be offset by 1 “unicorn”. The risk appetite seems to have shifted largely because 1.) there’s a higher volume of early stage concepts (so there’s more bad ideas), and 2.) there’s either fewer unicorns, or the unicorns that mature are ultimately less valuable.

Crunchbase put out a good analysis of the current trend of global venture dollar flow:

The Party’s Still Over: The VC Downturn In 6 Charts

You can read news from various outlets - some say it’s a post-pandemic correction. Some say it’s because labour is too expensive. But the bottom line is that VCs aren’t willing to spend money on “users-in-lieu-of-revenue” like they once were, and I honestly don’t blame them. There were a lot of really, egregiously stupid ideas coming out of SV, and their wax wings melted. sad_trombone.mp4

Adam Kotsko summed this entire phenomena up nicely:

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[-] SulaymanF 54 points 10 months ago

It's a process known as Enshittification.

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

The rest of the read is quite good.

[-] weew 53 points 11 months ago

A lot of the 2010's tech was fueled by venture capitalists looking for the next big thing. They saw things that were extremely popular, like Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, etc, and figured "well we've got a ton of users, surely we can find a way to make money off of this."

Some investors are starting to realize they aren't actually making much money or costs are blowing up without revenue following. People are starting to back out of this bubble without clear goals towards profitability.

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[-] [email protected] 52 points 10 months ago* (last edited 10 months ago)

Not really "all of a sudden", this has been a long process. The often repeated enshittification thing is fully valid. The short version is:

  • start out
  • grow and expand as much as possible
  • bring in advertisers
  • make everyone depend on your service
  • abuse your powers, since everyone "needs" your service

Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter are the more obvious culprits, but every big tech company does something similar, one way or another, even hardware companies like Intel or Nvidia

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[-] morgan_423 51 points 11 months ago* (last edited 11 months ago)

That doesn't fix YouTube's core issues with the ads that they run, impacting every free user without an ad blocker: 1) Not 100% safe 2) Unscrupulous advertisers, sometimes running scam ads 3) Poor user experience re: ads (far too many in general, and multiple mid-roll ads per video make for a horrendous time).

I'm not going to reward them for these misbehaviors toward their user base by buying their "Premium" service. Same for any other site that does this and offers a "Premium service" to fix the problem that they, themselves, created. There are ways to have safe ads, and fair user experience even with them in play.

EDIT: This was supposed to be a reply in a post chain below, and it got stuck as a new comment. Lemmy growing pains, lol (looks like we've added about 4k or so users on .world today alone... welcome new folks!)

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[-] SapienSRC 48 points 11 months ago

Because they don't have too be. Most people are so dependent on social media that they'll keep using a service even though they hate it. Like a drug addict who keeps using even though it's killing them.

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[-] kromem 45 points 10 months ago

No tech burst.

It's just a cold recession. No one is admitting it, including consumers who keep spending away savings.

But companies are aware of it enough they are tightening purses preparing for harder times ahead.

Of course, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If everyone makes their products worse chasing this quarter's dollar, and people leave, those companies are going to have a harder time.

Especially as it becomes easier and easier to compete against them at scale.

Just wait until new feature requests and bug reports for something like Lemmy can be handled within moments by AI at dirt cheap pricing.

A very interesting future awaits around the bend.

[-] Poglathegrate 43 points 11 months ago

All of a sudden?

My dear, sweet summer child.

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[-] Clown_Tempura 42 points 10 months ago

The 'trust thermocline' occurs when an organization repeatedly takes their customers for granted, and they reach a critical point of 'no trust return' and just leave. Essentially, if you gradually provide less quality while charging more money, you erode trust- and if you lose trust, you don't actually ever get it back. See: Twitter. And possibly now Reddit. Great term, I love it even, but I hate that the lesson these people are learning isn't 'hey maybe we should stop pissing people off without good reason' and is instead is "this is acceptable risk and we should continue playing chicken with dissatisfied users to make our shareholders happy."

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[-] [email protected] 41 points 10 months ago

I find it the ad bubble is bursting so companies are increasing costs for api access and divert people into using their own apps (so they can't block ads and such)

[-] joel_feila 41 points 10 months ago

https://www.wired.com/story/tiktok-platforms-cory-doctorow/

Enshitifacation. Twitter onlyy turned a profit once, YouTube is about 20% of global bandwidth and has turned a profit. companies don't just want money they want the amount of money to always increase. So they turn to ever more exploitation to try to get it.

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[-] [email protected] 39 points 10 months ago

Well, I hope the Fediverse works out. Otherwise I think were gonna have to go back to hand printing zines.

[-] Chalky_Pockets 38 points 10 months ago

You joke, but Reddit did something to piss me off a few months before the current fuckery, and I decided to find an alt and there weren't really any, like I found Mastodon but that's more of a Twitter replacement, never encountered this site while searching. What I ended up doing was downloading a bunch of books and putting them on my phone, then putting the books app where my Apollo app used to be on my homescreen. Now, more often than not, when I go to scroll, I end up just opening a book. I've got a little over 40 on there, they keep my progress, even across devices, and they work when there's no signal so I no longer have to fear public toilets with shitty cell signal lol.

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[-] danboy4 39 points 10 months ago

Because investors are tired of the model where they dump a shit load of cash into something that has no good path for monetization. So they’re forcing them all to make money which hurts users.

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[-] afraid_of_zombies2 38 points 11 months ago

You are the product and right now the product is falling in value. I have known a few people who raise exotic animals and they treated them as nicely as a parent treats their own child. Now compare this to people who raise chickens.

The easy money is drying up. Hence you, the product, are worth less money. I personally don't really care all that much. The market was due for a correction well over a decade ago. The average person is worth about a dollar to Alphabet and when you think about how much you are getting the numbers never made sense. This dead weight mismatch has been skewing our entire economy. Engineers and project managers that would have gone into tangible items and paid for services instead were recruited to keep you on social media all day.

There are only a finite amount of techies and no one is going to care if slack integrated with Google maps if we are drowning in human sewage.

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this post was submitted on 02 Jul 2023
1974 points (97.6% liked)

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